To an extent, every culture employs the use of shame to police its citizens and uphold public morality, but moreso in East Asian cultures. You could say that within our dreams, our greatest fears can be realized. As such, Yume finds herself lost within a sea of people in the middle of a bright and busy Tokyo intersection. This setting serves as a stark contrast to the dark, shaded park grounds in the previous two episodes. Like a dense forest, Yume could hide in the park and “play,” i.e. manifest her latent sexual desires through cannibalism. If she were to transform into a “monster” here, however, i.e. in the middle of a bright and busy Tokyo intersection, the consequences would be disasterous.
Even so, Yume struggles to keep her feelings and desires buried deep within her: “The body craves it… It’s disgusting.” We suddenly see the image of her as a monster superimposed upon the image of her as a vulnerable shoujo. When the image of the monster finally fades away, a thick vein begins to pulsate on one of her cheeks. Essentially, Yume is about to explode; after all, puberty and the changes that come as a result of it are inevitable. How much longer can she deny herself and remain artificially as a virginal shoujo that needs her brother’s protection? As I have said above, she is lost amongst a sea of people, and her own sexual desires are fighting to escape her discipline and control. So, like the fish that she sees on the giant TV screen overhead, she feels gutted. Yes, when she looks upon the giant TV screen, I believe she is actually observing herself. The giant TV screen then serves as just one element of a modern Panopticon.
The Panopticon was a building designed by Jeremy Bentham to facilitate in both the observation and the discipline of prison inmates. Social thinker Michel Foucault latched upon this idea of observation and discipline being intrinsically linked. The Panopticon is effective because it removes the prisoners from the dark dungeons, opting to place them within the light instead. All of the prisoners’ potential transgressions can therefore no longer be hidden from sight. As such, the fear of constant surveillance becomes another instrument of state-imposed discipline. You can never act out because you can never know when you’re being watched. As I have suggested, East Asian cultures are especially more shame-based than most other modern societies, especially with regards to female sexuality. A cursory glance at anime alone will readily reveal to its audience that a young girl’s purity is highly valued. Nourin, for instance, is just one in many shows that continually advance the notion that girls should be ashamed and afraid to exhibit any sort of individual sexuality:
Kousaku: Isn’t it embarrassing to show me your laundry?
Kousaku: Because I’m a man.
To bring things back to pupa, Yume’s greatest fears are realized in her dream sequence because if she loses control over her own latent sexual desires, she will manifest into a monster before an entire sea of people in the middle of a bright and busy Tokyo intersection. Not only that, she feels as though she’s a gutted fish; her feelings and desires are no longer hers but since they are being forcefully removed by the hands of an unknown man. The unknown man represents another element of the modern Panopticon. Because she is afraid of being ashamed — because she has to discipline herself — she is rejecting her own wants and desires. Nevertheless, this is not a natural rejection. She is not rejecting her sexuality because she inherently hates it. Rather, the rejection is born from a deeply-rooted sense of guilt. The disembodied hands serve as a metaphor of a faceless state policing a young woman’s sexuality. In other words, Yume finds herself lost within a modern Panopticon. Like a prisoner, she has no place to act out. She must forcefully expel her transgressive inclinations, i.e. gutted, or face alienation and ostracization from the sea of people around her. Yume can’t “hide in the bushes;” she can’t “play” in the park. Yume cannot transform here; she cannot be herself. Yume has to police and discipline herself lest her shame comes to light.
Suddenly, the giant TV screen cuts to a mysterious man who ominously bellows, “Even you… would abandon your sister if you were backed into a corner.” Although at first glance, it would seem as though the man is addressing Utsutsu, this is, again, Yume’s dream. What is her greatest fear? Yes, she is ashamed to be seen as a sexual creature — in her eyes, a sexual monster — and we’ve already discussed how the busy Tokyo intersection reflects this fear. Her greatest fear, however, is the fear of being alienated from her own brother. If she becomes consumed by sexual love, will she also lose familial love as a result? Will her own brother abandon her because she is no longer a pure, virginal imouto? So when the TV screen cuts to the mysterious man and broke the fourth wall, so to speak, he represents the threat of punishment: do this and you will suffer.
So Yume cries. She desperately wishes that it was all a dream, and that she’ll wake up and find herself next to Utsutsu. She even briefly falls into a dream-within-a-dream whereupon she meets that neglected and abused teddy bear once again. As with previous episodes, the teddy bear continues to function as a reflection of Yume’s alter ego: “You know the truth, Yume-chan. You’ll kill onii-chan and–” Yume interrupts the teddy bear, i.e. herself, by slapping it away. You can see this as Yume not only continuing to reject herself, but resorting to physical abuse — the same abuse she had learned from her father — as a form of discipline. When Yume finds herself back in the original dream, she cannot help but fall to her knees as though she’s in prayer, trying to desperately wish both her sins and propensity to sin away. She is only “saved” when Utsutsu appears out of nowhere to embrace her from behind.
Already, we can see incestuous overtones begin to develop. I’ve already suggested in previous posts the confusing nature of Yume’s current existence. She exists in a liminal state between a virginal girl and an independent woman. Her sexual desires distances her from the former, but her status as a vulnerable, dependent imouto prevents her from becoming the latter. As such, it is likely that her feelings also exist within a liminal state. How does one transition from familial love to sexual love? Because of the way the siblings depend solely upon each other, can these two notions of love become confused and interchangeable? Might the lines become blurred? After all, both Yume and Utsutsu lost their parents when they were still just children. As such, they’ve both had to fulfill roles they weren’t likely emotionally equipped to handle, i.e. look out for each other as a parent should.
We see this blurring of the lines play out in reality. We return to the park and it’s important to see the contrasting elements that follow. First, we see mothers and children playing around a swing set. Then, we see a shady-looking man smoking and drinking alcohol on a park bench, his face concealed by a baseball cap. Then finally, we see an “Off Limits” sign hanging askew from a gate that might as well represent a set of prison bars. In the background, you hear grunting and panting from Utsutsu, but is it from pain or pleasure? Speaking of blurred lines, the division between pain and pleasure is a fine one, a line that is often and very easily overstepped (see: BDSM). We then enter the men’s restroom, where you can see blood on the floor and a single red butterfly fluttering about. Blood here probably represents life to serve as a contrast to the red butterfly, which I’ve learned from another blog post that the red butterfly often represents death in East Asian stories. The scene’s color scheme is, I believe, also important. It’s like how during a storm, the rainwater brings out the oil and grime previously hidden in the streets. When you look down at the water, the streak of oil appears as a somewhat rainbow-like mixture of colors. The look of the restroom reminds me of this; it’s dirty and it’s grimy.
The most important element of the scene, however, is obviously our pair of siblings. Yume’s semi-straddling Utsutsu, so again, the line between pain and pleasure is ambiguous. Is she eating him or are they engaged in a sexual act? She licks her lips then returns to his flesh with her teeth bared, but it’s not unusual for lovers to playfully bite one another during sex either. Yume breathlessly mutters, “I’m sorry, onii-chan,” to which Utsutsu replies, “It’s okay, Yume. I’m just like a monster now, too.” Two thoughts come to mind. In last week’s post, I’ve previously suggested that violence begets violence, and being an abused victim, Yume is exhibiting signs of abuse. By hurting her own brother, Yume is perhaps resembling the siblings’ father. By not seeking help, however, you could argue that Utsutsu is enabling Yume the very same way that their mother enabled their father long enough for the children to suffer from abuse. So this is one way to interpret Utsutsu’s words. On the other hand, if we interpret Yume’s transformation as a morbid coming-of-age story of a girl’s blooming sexuality, then Utsutsu is becoming a monster too because he is now aware of his own sexual desires. But what normally happens when two siblings become adults? Generally, you each go out and date other people until you each find a person to commit to and form your own family.
Because of the hardships they’ve previously been through, however, neither Utsutsu nor Yume are ready to abandon each other. Neither of them are equipped to form their own healthy families. They continue to rely upon each other, and as such, the line between familial love and sexual love becomes blurred. This contrast is highlighted by the existence of the park itself. It is simultaneously a place for mothers to bring their children to play, and a place for taboo sexual acts to be carried out within the “dungeons” of the men’s restroom. We’ve all heard of clandestine sexual acts occurring in public restrooms — usually at parks or bars. What we saw earlier in the episode was how Utsutsu embraced Yume in her dream and told her not to worry. Essentially, his dream self tried to save her from the Panopticon and this is why we now see them hidden away within a dark “dungeon” away from the public eye. Even so, you cannot escape the modern Panopticon, and this is why we see Maria’s “cat” talking our oblivious siblings. The anime zooms into the cat’s face, and one of its eyes twitches in a way that would suggest that the cat is really a hidden camera.
In other words, you cannot escape the sight of the modern Panopticon.